Cynical Saints
Publishing and Graphic Design

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This is my place to write about publishing and design projects I've worked on, or just share my opinions and experiences.

The Biggest Mistake I Made Creating An E-Book Cover

My entire first book was a mistake. "How To Get Your Children To Stop Biting Their Nails" was one of the many ideas I jotted down as they spouted from my roommate's tightly-clenched jaw, as he nervously paced outside of a courtroom set to open it's doors in five minutes. I was there for emotional support, and was making conversation. Perhaps, it helped to take his mind off of the impending legal proceedings and/or events that led up to them, perhaps not. I did not think it was a particularly compelling book idea, but hey, give the guy a break, he was under a lot of stress.

I was still skeptical about self-publishing, especially in the "get-rich-quick" style it had been explained to me about 48 hours prior.

But, it also made a lot of sense. So, I decided to give it a try, I was going to publish an E-book as quickly as possible, regardless of the quality, just as an experiment. I was going to follow all the advice I'd heard about creating a cover, book description, etc., albeit with an incredibly drab and ho-hum topic: Children nail-biting. Please do not buy this book unless you are reading it as a comedy.


I've made many more mistakes in publishing, and my nail-biting book never really "popped". But luckily for you, I'm here to share one mistake that was particularly frustrating, and along the way explain some basic concepts of Amazon Kindle.

I have created E-book covers without creating an audiobook cover or paperback cover, instead thinking "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

I was still working in marketing at the time, and this was before I got "graphic design life" tattooed prominently across my chest. I still thought Photoshop was a verb, and I mostly hired talented and affordable designers online to do my cover art. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have never been so foolish as to sell my self short or shackle myself by only hiring someone to do an E-book cover. 

First of all, audio content is the fastest growing section of the self-publishing industry. Here's a quick glance report on the current state of self-publishing as of 2017:

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What I know now is that audiobooks are simply much more profitable then E-books. Kindle Direct Publishing is the site which allows indie authors to upload their E-books to the kindle store.

Audiobook Creation Exchange : Audible.com :: Kindle Direct Publishing : The Kindle Store

The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) has a large pool of talented professional narrators, nearly all of which double as producers. This means they are capable of narrating, editing, and producing an audiobook and ensuring it meets all the technical requirements of ACX. You can have a podcast or a YouTube channel with reasonable sound quality and the audience will be forgiving on an sound issues. ACX, on the other hand, insists that all their audiobooks be of the highest possible quality. All the narrators in the ACX pool are knowledgeable enough at sound engineering to meet these high standards and they don't get paid until all your audio files are accepted by ACX. The standard deal is that the rights holder (you) and the narrator/producer split half of the profits from ACX which is generally 40% of the book price, which is decided on and set by ACX.

To put this another way: Once you have an E-book, you are a mere hop, skip, or jump away from also having a professionally narrated audiobook. So why miss out!?

Trust me, even splitting the profits 50/50 with the narrator, I still make 5 to 10 times more off audiobook titles on average than their E-book counterparts. The two are not mutually exclusive, you lose 100% of the profits on an audiobook you don't have. If you don't believe me, you can watch this YouTube video where I explain the secret loop hole that allows you to offer your audiobook for free to customers and get paid large bonuses for doing so! 


Some other key points (much of which is covered in the aforementioned YouTube video):

  • There are different requirements for Audiobook covers at ACX and E-book covers at KDP. For the most up-to-date information visit their help pages. 
  • Websites such as Fiverr.com and Upwork.com do provide you with a slew of cheap, quick, and solid cover designers for around $20, however, unless you pay extra for and an editable Photoshop file, or purchase BOTH the E-book and audiobook up front, you run the risk of having to start over later if you decide to release your content as an audiobook (which you should). If you try to track down the same designer at that point, they may have deleted the files, raised their prices, or worse still, moved onward and upward to other opportunities. 
  • If there are any low-resolution aspects to your E-book cover, they will be drastically highlighted if you have to up-sample your image to meet the pixel requirements of ACX, and stand out more. I made the same mistake on a bigger scaled with my first paperback book. It contained a background image I had purchased from a stock image website and it looked good on the E-book cover. I converted it to my paperback cover and ordered some sample copies, but the pixilation was EXTREMELY noticeable on the paperback and I did not feel comfortable giving them out even as promo to my beta readers! The human eyeballs are very powerful!

In conclusion, learn from my failure:

don't create an E-book cover without considering the Audiobook version and the paperback.

Many of my books are too short in length to really look right as a paperback, but I've learned to at least sit down and plan all three and make those sort of executive decisions up front. Furthermore, believe in your book enough to think people will want more of it, be satisfied with just "becoming a published author". It's anti-climactic, but with some commitment and perseverance can be the beginning of a rewarding and profitable form of self expression.